Interview for Instagram • Friday, April 16, 2021

In conversation with Phoebe Bridgers

Interview of Paul McCartney
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Interview by:
Phoebe Bridgers
Timeline More from year 2021

Album This interview has been made to promote the McCartney III Imagined Streaming.

Related people

Songs mentioned in this interview

Drive My Car

Officially appears on Rubber Soul (UK Mono)

Seize The Day

Officially appears on McCartney III

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Paul McCartney: Hey, Phoebe. Thanks for doing this.

Phoebe Bridgers: Of course. I’m freaking out. Thanks for having me.

Paul McCartney: Listen, and super thanks for doing the mix, doing my song. It’s really, really great version of it. I don’t know if you’ve heard the whole album yet, have you?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, it’s awesome. I’m super impressed. I had such a good time just sifting through all the different instruments. We pitched your drums down quite a lot. And I thought we were being really revolutionary (laugh). But then hearing what everybody else did, I was just blown away. Everybody’s versions are so cool.

Paul McCartney: The funny thing was… I didn’t really know what anyone was going to do, because we gave everyone free rein. But I did realize people aren’t going to know what the other people have done. So when they hear them, “Oh, I could have gone crazier”, you know…

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, super eclectic. It’s just such a cool collection of music. It almost sounds like the songs are from different places as well. Which is so funny, because your record is so cohesive. It’s so cool.

Paul McCartney: Yeah, well, thanks for doing it, it’s beautiful. Whose idea was it? You changed the key?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah. So that was Tony Berg, my producer. You know, I play guitar. But I still don’t know my circle of fifths. And I don’t know really how to read sheet music. And Tony kind of fills that gap for me. And he was like, “I have a wild idea where we just change the key in the chorus”. And it turned out great. And we just had so much fun. You know, one time, when we were making one of my own records, he was like, “you really have an opportunity here to change the key”, like “you haven’t left the key in the song at all. And I was like, “Tony, most people don’t change the key in their songs”.

Paul McCartney: Why would you do that?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, but sometimes it’s cool.

Paul McCartney: Exactly. Yeah. So what’s your day looking like? Where are you, first of all?

Phoebe Bridgers: I’m in LA. You are too, Right.

Paul McCartney: I’m in LA too. Have you got much on today?

Phoebe Bridgers: No, not really. I mean, it’s, you know, I’m sure you know, the deal. Like a couple random internet interviews or meetings and whatever, but but filling the days has been kind of hard. I’ve been I’ve been walking my dog like five times a day.

Paul McCartney: There you go. Who’s that?

Phoebe Bridgers: This is Maxine. She’s pretty tired.

Paul McCartney: This year’s puppy?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, she’s a puppy. I had been looking for our rescue puppy pug for years. And finally, one fell into my lap recently. And so that keeps me busy. What about you? What have you got going on?

Paul McCartney: I’ve got quite a sort of full day today. I’ve just now watched an animation film that I’m involved in where I’ve written a music. It’s a film called “High In The Clouds”, which is being made now in animation. So they put it all together. And there’s some bits that are kind of almost finished. But mainly it’s just rough drawings. It’s just so you can see the story. And see where the songs come in and see where it’s a bit slow or it’s a bit this. So I just watched that. It’s really cool. And then I’m talking to Phoebe Bridgers later. She’s really cool, man. Have you heard of her?

Phoebe Bridgers: No, no idea. (laughs)

Paul McCartney: Oh, she’s good. And then I’m gonna talk to Josh Homme.

Phoebe Bridgers: Awesome. Yeah, that version is really cool.

Paul McCartney: So that’ll be nice. And then I’ll go over to a recording studio, where I’ve been working with a young producer. You’ve probably heard of Andrew Watt.

Phoebe Bridgers: Oh yeah. Big fan.

Paul McCartney: I hadn’t met him. But my manager said “it would be nice if you wanted to meet him, you know, just hang out and grab a cup of tea or something”. So I went over to his place. And we were just chatting. And then at one point, he just looked at me kind of cutely, and said, “I’d like to do a song with you”. I thought, okay, so certainly, we’re picking up guitars and then making the song and I was on the drums. And so I’m going over there, hopefully to finish off the thing we’ve been doing. And then my nephew is in town with his daughter, and I’m going out to dinner. Me and Nancy are going out to dinner with them later. So I’ve got a full day.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, you’ve got a full day! It seems you’ve gotten a lot out of COVID. I don’t know if you felt it. Has being stuck inside helped you make stuff? Or has it stopped you from? For me, I just stopped feeling inspired at all, because the collective consciousness was so stressful. But I don’t know, it seems like you’ve had a lot done.

Paul McCartney: Well, you know, I was kind of lucky because I got locked down with my daughter, Mary, and her family, her husband and the four kids. So that was kind of nice. I was locked down with my grandkids. And you know, I visit them or they visit me occasionally. But we don’t live together. But in COVID, we did, so that was nice for me. I loved it. And the UK government said, you can go to work as long as you can’t work from home. So I thought, This is good. I’ve got my recording studio, 20 minutes away from where I live. So that allowed me to do that. So in actual fact, I felt a bit guilty admitting that I was actually having a good time. So many people weren’t. But I was able to get over to the studio, and do all the songs and finish up stuff that I’ve been meaning to do. And that ended up as the “McCartney III” album.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah. How long has it been in the works for you? When was the first song tracked?

Paul McCartney: They were over the years. Most of them were just from the last couple of years. Sometimes I’ve got nothing on. I just like being in the studio. So I’ll go in and mess around, basically. And I enjoy that, so I was able to do that. But then it meant that there were a few songs I’ve messed around with, and I got something on, but I had to leave them. So then I say, “let’s look at that one, let’s grab that one, take a look at that”. That became the thing of finishing up all the songs. And then there were one or two I had just written, like, “Seize The Day”. I had just written that. So I kind of went in and recorded that. But it did mean that I could be very creative during lockdown, which was a big blessing.

Phoebe Bridgers: Totally. Do you ever write an entire song, and then a couple years later, you take another stab at it and everything about it changes? Or do you write half the lyrics one year and then, three years later, finish it? Or once you finish something, is it just kind of “That’s what it is”?

Paul McCartney: You know, I like to think you can do it anyway. So that’s how it happens with me. You know, sometimes it’s a complete song. You got all the words and all the melody and you can go in and record it. Sometimes, like you say, you’ve got an idea for the song and you maybe got the first verse or something but you haven’t got the bridge or the middle. So that’s good to come back to it and think “I better get serious here, I better make a bridge”. So that happens as well. And then sometimes I just make it up in the studio.

Phoebe Bridgers: Wow, that’s bold!

Paul McCartney: That’s a bit more precarious, because you can spend hours… But yeah, I do a variety of ways. I like to mix it up.

Phoebe Bridgers: I can’t imagine doing that. I feel like my lyrics would be so bad if I was just going off the cuff. It’d be like, you know, just like the worst rap battle ever.

Paul McCartney: It is a bit, I must say, yeah. Sometimes I’m in that experimental mode. I did records a few years ago, called “The Fireman”, which was kind of like an underground record. We didn’t say I was involved. We just called it “The Fireman”. And we did it with a friend of mine, called Youth, who’s a producer. And we just experimented. I think we did 3 Fireman records. And the first one was instrumental, kind of trance music. The second one was a little bit more experimental. But the third one, he says to me, “do you wanna do a vocal?” I said, “Well, I’ve got no words”. And he said, “Yeah, you know, yeah, go on”. So I went out on the mic and I’m then saying “okay, disclaimer, this could be the worst thing you’ve ever heard, this could be me totally crapping out”, you know. But you have to just get courageous and just go on the mic “I’m sitting here / I’m talking to you / this is what I love to do”.

Phoebe Bridgers: It’s a hit!

Paul McCartney: But it is a bit like walking a tightrope.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, it’s kind of what I do by myself. But you’re doing it in front of other people, you must have to have a lot of trust for like “Don’t embarrass me, don’t look at me while I do this”.

Paul McCartney: Yeah, you know that’s funny. I was just saying to my Nancy, the other day… I had to work on something, I needed a melody and some words. And I said, you know, normally I’ll find the furthest away closet, in the house, where no one’s going to hear me, or an outbuilding, or the furthest most remote bedroom. Just so I don’t feel anyone’s listening to me, because if I feel someone’s listening, I’m always very inhibited. I’m thinking, “God, they’re gonna think I’m terrible”. Because when you’re writing, you’re goofing around. And it doesn’t always just work till you find the line. So I like to be hidden away.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, me too. Have you ever accidentally plagiarized somebody? Like, have you ever come up with a melody or some words that are genius? And then you realize that you’d heard them on the radio or something?

Paul McCartney: Yeah, I do that occasionally and try and check it out. “Which word is that from?” And if I can’t think of it, I think it’s okay. I remember talking to John Lennon once about that. I’ve done something that was a little bit like something else. He said, “it’s okay, it’s a quote”. You’re quoting someone else, you know. But the good thing about writing with John in the old days was if he would write a line, that I would go “Oh, no, no, wait a minute, that’s from West Side Story”, or “that’s a Bob Dylan song”, he would say “okay”. And similarly, he did it with me, you know, if I was going somewhere who’s a little bit plagiarizing. So it was good, because we could police each other.

Phoebe Bridgers: Were you comfortable being embarrassed with each other? Like, could you write a bad line, and know that he would like “that sucks, we can do better than that”. Or same with him?

Paul McCartney: Oh yeah, that was one of the great things about him as a collaborator, you know. We’d kind of known each other for a long time, before we had any big success. I knew him when we were teenagers. And I’ve been hitchhiking with him. And so we were like buddies. We slept in the same bed in the little hotel and stuff, so that you get to know people. So when you were sitting down and writing, you could just say, “turn like that”. Nowadays, now that he’s passed away, I will check my songs with him. So, you know, we were very good at telling each other. “That didn’t work”. “This doesn’t work”. “So let’s change it”. And that was a nice thing. It’s always great when you change it because often you get something better.

Phoebe Bridgers: Oh totally. Do you ever find that, if you’re really searching for a rhyme or another line to go along and it takes you forever, when you finally find it, it feels like the initial thing that you were trying to rhyme it with just pales in comparison? It just doesn’t even make sense anymore. The focal point of the song disappears into a way better song. I love that feeling.

Paul McCartney: Yeah, I agree. And, like you say, you hung up on a line or on a thought, and it’s just taking too long, and it’s causing too much trouble. So you just get rid of it. Let’s just go somewhere else. And that’s a nice feeling. The one big time that happened with me and John writing was when we were doing a song that turned out to be “Drive My Car”, The Beatles song. But at first, I brought it in, I had the rough melody, but it was like “I can buy you diamond rings, I can get you anything”. We were trying so hard to make something of it. But in the end, we were like “This isn’t gonna work”. So I think we had a cup of tea, little quick break, came back to it and then just thought we got to kind of go tongue in cheek and it’s you know, it’s about this girl who wants to drive. Then it flowed once we just got away from those golden rings.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, do you have things that you do when you are stuck? Like take a little walk or make a cup of tea or…?

Paul McCartney: I think it’s good if you can get away from it for a moment, a bit of fresh air or something. I heard a story there’s this guy… Fats Domino, the old rock and roll player from New Orleans, used to write with a guy called Bartholomew I think it was. And they’re sitting one day they’re trying to write this song and it’s going quite well. But they walk outside into the garden kind of thing. And there’s a neighbor’s got quite a vicious Dog. Dog starts barking, “Oh, hell, get back in the house”. And then it was like, “baby, don’t you let your dog bite me?” It’s like the best line in the song. But it came from them taking a break out in the garden.

Phoebe Bridgers: I love stuff like that. That’s so cool.

Paul McCartney: So how do you write? What’s your ideal situation to write?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, it takes me at the least like three years to finish a song. Well, I’ll write the whole thing, and it’s okay. But I feel like the real test is, if I make something and then I listened to it the way I listened to the music I love, if I’m not compelled to listen to it again after I write it, then it probably isn’t that good. So for me, the phonetics and the form of the song, it’s really hard to write the first time. But then, after a while, it’s just the way that my brain talks to itself. And I can write 10 versions after I write the first one. So just little things will change. And also the way that Tony and Ethan, my producers, and I record, we take forever. We’ll go in for a month. And then two years later, we’ll go in for another month and do weird couple of days in between tours. And it’s so fun, because my favorite is the delete button. Like I love just making something and then realizing that you spent all day trying to get a drum tone, and then you cut the drums completely and it sounds way better. So I feel the same with writing.

Paul McCartney: When you were asked to do this, how was it put to you? You know, it’s like, “Paul McCartney would like you to do a mix” or do a vocal thing. What was your brief?

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, my brief was like, some people are doing remixes. And I definitely can’t do that. And then I was like “I’ll just do a cover”. And then they said, “we’ll send you all the tracks, and you can do whatever you want”. I was like, what an awesome gift. You know, we just had such a great time sifting through your stuff and changing the key, and we recorded Mellotron, strings and horns, and we pitch them down to it. Now it just kind of sounds like, in a good way, I hope but it definitely when I was listening to it today, I was like, wow, this feels like drowning. Like, all the instrumentation is so low. But, yeah, I guess that’s the only way I would ever really remix something as if I could add things…

Paul McCartney: I was glad that everyone felt very free to do what made them comfortable, you know, either remix or resing or whatever. And I think the other thing that helped strangely, again, was lockdown, because people were getting this project on alpha and it was during lockdown. So it was like, “well, what else can we do?” So everyone had the the freedom to get creative, which is nice.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, we had a blast. Yeah, we spent a couple days and just like I said, throwing stuff at the wall, deleting it, trying it again, putting stuff back. It’s my favorite way to work. I feel like I’m gonna have a really hard time adjusting back to non lockdown time when you actually have to make a plan for when to go at the studio and make something.

Paul McCartney: Oh, it was kind of strange coming and watching this movie I watched today with real people. And you know, it sounds strange, because it’s like, are we going to do the fist pump, we’re going to do the elbow. We’re going to actually shake hands, we’re going to put on masks on or off or whatever. It’s strange re-entering the world, actually talking to people in a room.

Phoebe Bridgers: How have your fan interactions been this year? Like if people do people recognize you in a mask? Do people feel compelled to like come up to you? Or is it more real?

Paul McCartney: They don’t recognize me. So I must say that’s another advantage. Really. If you want to go shopping, you know, and people coming up to me. I sometimes say “look, I’m a guy, I have trouble shopping anyway, I’ve no idea what I’m looking for, so please…”. But with a mask, they don’t know it’s me.

Phoebe Bridgers: Yeah, there are some things that are gonna be hard to go back to, especially the people immediately hugging you. I’m kind of an awkward physical person. I love the elbow, you know.

Paul McCartney: You’re like my wife, Nancy. You know, she’s never been that kid. She’s not like, totally germaphobic, but she’s aware that you can catch germs of people. I’m a hugger. So, I kind of miss it. But she doesn’t.

Phoebe Bridgers: She must feel so validated this year. Just being like, “see what happens”.

Paul McCartney: All those germaphobes were right.

Phoebe Bridgers: They were right. Yeah, totally hide forever. You ever talk to people or touch them.

Paul McCartney: What’s your dog’s name?

Phoebe Bridgers: This is Maxine. She always looks like this. She looks like a little troll.

Paul McCartney: You’re online, on global Instagram.

Phoebe Bridgers: She doesn’t know, she doesn’t care about the Beatles. Look at her. She’s like, Who’s that?

Paul McCartney: You’ve been sent “Hello” to from Argentina. Listen, Phoebe and the doggy, I’ve got to go now. So thanks very much for doing the track. I love the track. It’s great. And so thanks for being on the album and taking part. And thanks for doing this interview.

Phoebe Bridgers: Thanks. I love the record. Thank you so much for having me. Have a great day. Thank you.

Last updated on April 22, 2021


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